By Nick Eve, MD of Pumphouse, the face to face digital and experiential agency.
We are all agreed, sustainability has shifted from being a glossy marketing objective to where it is now, a real necessity. The world as we know it today is witnessing a profound change, similar to that experienced in the 19th century at the start of the Industrial Revolution.
The catalysts for change this time are driven by the lack of resources the world is facing and the acute need to drastically change the way we lead our lives or suffer the consequences.
An increasing number of companies have started investigating the potential of sustainable business practices for value creation as well as for CSR purposes.
In so doing it seemed logical to forecast that sustainability might be attained via evolving technology, the digital age was embedded and we would see a rapid escalation of virtual marketing requirements.
The possibilities new technologies offer, from creating virtual conference spaces and avatars, to HD, all lead towards a shift in the way marketers could be using technology to interact with their audiences.
However creating virtual gatherings appears to be fraught with potential disasters. Of course, companies are using simple Webinar scenarios but these are not particularly interactive or engaging.
Many companies' IT networks are not geared to high end graphic resolution and caching, that would be needed for a higher level of virtual meetings, and , with the sensitivity of companies’ IT security processes, firewall and other access issues can be a major obstacle.
But worse still is the perception of the format itself. Research has shown a deep routed fear from management that participants would be so hung up on the look and feel of this new way of interacting, that they would miss the all important content and messages. It would feel like a game, hard to take seriously and would undermine any serious communications programme.
De-constructing the original business model, means re-addressing exactly who the target audience is and defining the communication objectives in order to choose the most relevant format in which to deliver the programme.
Technology certainly can greatly enhance an event, key however is to mix and match technologies and ways of engagement to achieve an optimum formula.
Key too is the fact that communication is a its most powerful and meaningful when performed face to face. Technology can’t replace that, it needs to be used to add value and woven into the very fabric of an event.
Reverting to the idea of bringing people to an event to experience the power of face to face engagement, rather than the other way around, engenders a whole new series of ideas focusing on minimising people movement and spend whilst allowing the basics of communication to be applied.
There are a number of solutions that can be employed, the basis of which are at the heart of engagement. An event can be delivered into companies’ own offices, any ambience can be created from the relaxed to the formal, within existing spaces.
Centering on communicating the corporate messages in a way that is engaging means transforming existing work spaces into new exciting areas by applying theatrical skills teamed with latest technical know-how.
Delegates waste no time getting to an event destination.
Suddenly although they are in familiar surroundings, the environment has been transformed. They are focused, interested, keen to take on board what is being delivered.
These different gatherings offer an optimum forum for interaction. Delegates share, reach conclusions and come away very clear about what is expected of them in exactly the same way as if they had been removed to a far flung venue, but with less stress and an appreciation of the ease of attendance.
New technology and interesting ways of presenting programme content should still be part of 'local' events as these elements have been shown to be very important as engagement tools, but research has shown that this new, more organic way of holding meetings is far more impactful than some of the bigger, more formal events.
Information and other media can be accessed prior to the event and still used to enhance message adoption and delivered to delegates unable to attend.
By stripping away the vague promises of a 'nirvana' like virtual meeting world means moving towards a more sustainable meeting model.
It is a far cry from the more digitalised version initially forecast, yet digital still plays an enormous part, the key is to keep people connected in real time - virtual meetings miss the vital ingredient needed, we are human after all.
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